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CHAPTER XXXIII

The conference was neither so short nor so conclusive
as the lady had designed. The gentleman was not
so easily satisfied. He had all the disposition to
persevere that Sir Thomas could wish him. He had vanity,
which strongly inclined him in the first place to think
she did love him, though she might not know it herself;
and which, secondly, when constrained at last to admit
that she did know her own present feelings, convinced him
that he should be able in time to make those feelings
what he wished.

He was in love, very much in love; and it was a love which,
operating on an active, sanguine spirit, of more warmth
than delicacy, made her affection appear of greater
consequence because it was withheld, and determined him
to have the glory, as well as the felicity, of forcing
her to love him.

He would not despair: he would not desist. He had every
well-grounded reason for solid attachment; he knew her
to have all the worth that could justify the warmest
hopes of lasting happiness with her; her conduct at this
very time, by speaking the disinterestedness and delicacy
of her character (qualities which he believed most rare
indeed), was of a sort to heighten all his wishes,
and confirm all his resolutions. He knew not that he had a
pre-engaged heart to attack. Of _that_ he had no suspicion.
He considered her rather as one who had never thought
on the subject enough to be in danger; who had been
guarded by youth, a youth of mind as lovely as of person;
whose modesty had prevented her from understanding
his attentions, and who was still overpowered by the
suddenness of addresses so wholly unexpected, and the novelty
of a situation which her fancy had never taken into account.

Must it not follow of course, that, when he was understood,
he should succeed? He believed it fully. Love such as his,
in a man like himself, must with perseverance secure a return,
and at no great distance; and he had so much delight in
the idea of obliging her to love him in a very short time,
that her not loving him now was scarcely regretted.
A little difficulty to be overcome was no evil to
Henry Crawford. He rather derived spirits from it.
He had been apt to gain hearts too easily. His situation
was new and animating.

To Fanny, however, who had known too much opposition all her
life to find any charm in it, all this was unintelligible.
She found that he did mean to persevere; but how he could,
after such language from her as she felt herself obliged
to use, was not to be understood. She told him that she
did not love him, could not love him, was sure she never
should love him; that such a change was quite impossible;
that the subject was most painful to her; that she must
entreat him never to mention it again, to allow her to leave
him at once, and let it be considered as concluded for ever.
And when farther pressed, had added, that in her opinion
their dispositions were so totally dissimilar as to make
mutual affection incompatible; and that they were unfitted
for each other by nature, education, and habit. All this
she had said, and with the earnestness of sincerity;
yet this was not enough, for he immediately denied there
being anything uncongenial in their characters, or anything
unfriendly in their situations; and positively declared,
that he would still love, and still hope!

Fanny knew her own meaning, but was no judge of her own manner.
Her manner was incurably gentle; and she was not aware
how much it concealed the sternness of her purpose.
Her diffidence, gratitude, and softness made every expression
of indifference seem almost an effort of self-denial;
seem, at least, to be giving nearly as much pain to herself
as to him. Mr. Crawford was no longer the Mr. Crawford who,
as the clandestine, insidious, treacherous admirer of
Maria Bertram, had been her abhorrence, whom she had hated
to see or to speak to, in whom she could believe no good
quality to exist, and whose power, even of being agreeable,
she had barely acknowledged. He was now the Mr. Crawford
who was addressing herself with ardent, disinterested love;
whose feelings were apparently become all that was
honourable and upright, whose views of happiness were all
fixed on a marriage of attachment; who was pouring out
his sense of her merits, describing and describing again
his affection, proving as far as words could prove it,
and in the language, tone, and spirit of a man of talent too,
that he sought her for her gentleness and her goodness;
and to complete the whole, he was now the Mr. Crawford
who had procured William's promotion!

Here was a change, and here were claims which could
not but operate! She might have disdained him in all
the dignity of angry virtue, in the grounds of Sotherton,
or the theatre at Mansfield Park; but he approached
her now with rights that demanded different treatment.
She must be courteous, and she must be compassionate.
She must have a sensation of being honoured, and whether
thinking of herself or her brother, she must have a strong
feeling of gratitude. The effect of the whole was a
manner so pitying and agitated, and words intermingled
with her refusal so expressive of obligation and concern,
that to a temper of vanity and hope like Crawford's,
the truth, or at least the strength of her indifference,
might well be questionable; and he was not so irrational
as Fanny considered him, in the professions of persevering,
assiduous, and not desponding attachment which closed
the interview.

It was with reluctance that he suffered her to go; but there
was no look of despair in parting to belie his words,
or give her hopes of his being less unreasonable than he
professed himself.

Now she was angry. Some resentment did arise at a
perseverance so selfish and ungenerous. Here was again
a want of delicacy and regard for others which had formerly
so struck and disgusted her. Here was again a something
of the same Mr. Crawford whom she had so reprobated before.
How evidently was there a gross want of feeling and humanity
where his own pleasure was concerned; and alas! how always
known no principle to supply as a duty what the heart
was deficient in! Had her own affections been as free
as perhaps they ought to have been, he never could have engaged
them.

So thought Fanny, in good truth and sober sadness,
as she sat musing over that too great indulgence and luxury
of a fire upstairs: wondering at the past and present;
wondering at what was yet to come, and in a nervous
agitation which made nothing clear to her but the persuasion
of her being never under any circumstances able to love
Mr. Crawford, and the felicity of having a fire to sit
over and think of it.

Sir Thomas was obliged, or obliged himself, to wait till
the morrow for a knowledge of what had passed between
the young people. He then saw Mr. Crawford, and received
his account. The first feeling was disappointment:
he had hoped better things; he had thought that an hour's
entreaty from a young man like Crawford could not have worked
so little change on a gentle-tempered girl like Fanny;
but there was speedy comfort in the determined views
and sanguine perseverance of the lover; and when seeing
such confidence of success in the principal, Sir Thomas
was soon able to depend on it himself.

Nothing was omitted, on his side, of civility, compliment,
or kindness, that might assist the plan. Mr. Crawford's
steadiness was honoured, and Fanny was praised, and the
connexion was still the most desirable in the world.
At Mansfield Park Mr. Crawford would always be welcome;
he had only to consult his own judgment and feelings as
to the frequency of his visits, at present or in future.
In all his niece's family and friends, there could be
but one opinion, one wish on the subject; the influence
of all who loved her must incline one way.

Everything was said that could encourage, every encouragement
received with grateful joy, and the gentlemen parted
the best of friends.

Satisfied that the cause was now on a footing the most
proper and hopeful, Sir Thomas resolved to abstain
from all farther importunity with his niece, and to
shew no open interference. Upon her disposition he
believed kindness might be the best way of working.
Entreaty should be from one quarter only. The forbearance
of her family on a point, respecting which she could
be in no doubt of their wishes, might be their surest
means of forwarding it. Accordingly, on this principle,
Sir Thomas took the first opportunity of saying to her,
with a mild gravity, intended to be overcoming,
"Well, Fanny, I have seen Mr. Crawford again, and learn
from him exactly how matters stand between you. He is
a most extraordinary young man, and whatever be the event,
you must feel that you have created an attachment of no
common character; though, young as you are, and little
acquainted with the transient, varying, unsteady nature
of love, as it generally exists, you cannot be struck
as I am with all that is wonderful in a perseverance
of this sort against discouragement. With him it is
entirely a matter of feeling: he claims no merit in it;
perhaps is entitled to none. Yet, having chosen so well,
his constancy has a respectable stamp. Had his choice
been less unexceptionable, I should have condemned
his persevering."

"Indeed, sir," said Fanny, "I am very sorry that Mr. Crawford
should continue to know that it is paying me a very
great compliment, and I feel most undeservedly honoured;
but I am so perfectly convinced, and I have told him so,
that it never will be in my power--"

"My dear," interrupted Sir Thomas, "there is no
occasion for this. Your feelings are as well known
to me as my wishes and regrets must be to you.
There is nothing more to be said or done. From this
hour the subject is never to be revived between us.
You will have nothing to fear, or to be agitated about.
You cannot suppose me capable of trying to persuade you
to marry against your inclinations. Your happiness
and advantage are all that I have in view, and nothing is
required of you but to bear with Mr. Crawford's endeavours
to convince you that they may not be incompatible with his.
He proceeds at his own risk. You are on safe ground.
I have engaged for your seeing him whenever he calls,
as you might have done had nothing of this sort occurred.
You will see him with the rest of us, in the same manner,
and, as much as you can, dismissing the recollection of
everything unpleasant. He leaves Northamptonshire so soon,
that even this slight sacrifice cannot be often demanded.
The future must be very uncertain. And now, my dear Fanny,
this subject is closed between us."

The promised departure was all that Fanny could think
of with much satisfaction. Her uncle's kind expressions,
however, and forbearing manner, were sensibly felt;
and when she considered how much of the truth was unknown
to him, she believed she had no right to wonder at the line
of conduct he pursued. He, who had married a daughter
to Mr. Rushworth: romantic delicacy was certainly not
to be expected from him. She must do her duty, and trust
that time might make her duty easier than it now was.

She could not, though only eighteen, suppose Mr. Crawford's
attachment would hold out for ever; she could not
but imagine that steady, unceasing discouragement from
herself would put an end to it in time. How much time
she might, in her own fancy, allot for its dominion,
is another concern. It would not be fair to inquire
into a young lady's exact estimate of her own perfections.

In spite of his intended silence, Sir Thomas found himself
once more obliged to mention the subject to his niece,
to prepare her briefly for its being imparted to her aunts;
a measure which he would still have avoided, if possible,
but which became necessary from the totally opposite
feelings of Mr. Crawford as to any secrecy of proceeding.
He had no idea of concealment. It was all known at
the Parsonage, where he loved to talk over the future
with both his sisters, and it would be rather gratifying
to him to have enlightened witnesses of the progress
of his success. When Sir Thomas understood this, he felt
the necessity of making his own wife and sister-in-law
acquainted with the business without delay; though,
on Fanny's account, he almost dreaded the effect of the
communication to Mrs. Norris as much as Fanny herself.
He deprecated her mistaken but well-meaning zeal.
Sir Thomas, indeed, was, by this time, not very far from
classing Mrs. Norris as one of those well-meaning people
who are always doing mistaken and very disagreeable things.

Mrs. Norris, however, relieved him. He pressed
for the strictest forbearance and silence towards
their niece; she not only promised, but did observe it.
She only looked her increased ill-will. Angry she was:
bitterly angry; but she was more angry with Fanny for
having received such an offer than for refusing it.
It was an injury and affront to Julia, who ought to have
been Mr. Crawford's choice; and, independently of that,
she disliked Fanny, because she had neglected her;
and she would have grudged such an elevation to one whom
she had been always trying to depress.

Sir Thomas gave her more credit for discretion on the
occasion than she deserved; and Fanny could have blessed
her for allowing her only to see her displeasure,
and not to hear it.

Lady Bertram took it differently. She had been a beauty,
and a prosperous beauty, all her life; and beauty
and wealth were all that excited her respect. To know
Fanny to be sought in marriage by a man of fortune,
raised her, therefore, very much in her opinion.
By convincing her that Fanny _was_ very pretty, which she
had been doubting about before, and that she would be
advantageously married, it made her feel a sort of credit
in calling her niece.

"Well, Fanny," said she, as soon as they were alone
together afterwards, and she really had known something
like impatience to be alone with her, and her countenance,
as she spoke, had extraordinary animation; "Well, Fanny,
I have had a very agreeable surprise this morning. I must
just speak of it _once_, I told Sir Thomas I must _once_,
and then I shall have done. I give you joy, my dear niece."
And looking at her complacently, she added, "Humph, we
certainly are a handsome family!"

Fanny coloured, and doubted at first what to say;
when, hoping to assail her on her vulnerable side,
she presently answered--

"My dear aunt, _you_ cannot wish me to do differently from
what I have done, I am sure. _You_ cannot wish me to marry;
for you would miss me, should not you? Yes, I am sure
you would miss me too much for that."

"No, my dear, I should not think of missing you,
when such an offer as this comes in your way.
I could do very well without you, if you were married
to a man of such good estate as Mr. Crawford. And you
must be aware, Fanny, that it is every young woman's
duty to accept such a very unexceptionable offer as this."

This was almost the only rule of conduct, the only piece
of advice, which Fanny had ever received from her aunt
in the course of eight years and a half. It silenced her.
She felt how unprofitable contention would be.
If her aunt's feelings were against her, nothing could
be hoped from attacking her understanding. Lady Bertram
was quite talkative.

"I will tell you what, Fanny," said she, "I am sure he
fell in love with you at the ball; I am sure the mischief
was done that evening. You did look remarkably well.
Everybody said so. Sir Thomas said so. And you know
you had Chapman to help you to dress. I am very glad
I sent Chapman to you. I shall tell Sir Thomas that I
am sure it was done that evening." And still pursuing
the same cheerful thoughts, she soon afterwards added,
"And will tell you what, Fanny, which is more than I did
for Maria: the next time Pug has a litter you shall have
a puppy."




Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
Category:
General Fiction

Social life and customs - 19th century
Book Review:
“Mansfield Park” is the most condensed and complex novel ever written by Jane Austen, and is her first novel that was conceived, written, and published at her mature years. Even though it lacks in the playful ironic humor which is so characteristic of Austen’s other novels, it is the novel that most clearly shows another aspect of the writer
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